The animated Pixar shorts that precede the studio's latest feature-length films never fail to captivate audiences with their simplistic yet emotional storytelling in the absence of dialogue.
But their latest, titled Bao, is getting a little lost in translation.
Get a taste of #Bao, our upcoming short opening ahead of #Incredibles2 June 15. https://t.co/Yw17N2pNZX— Disney•Pixar (@Disney•Pixar)1523567658.0
Those who went to theaters for The Incredibles 2 were first treated to the very unusual but poignant short film set in Toronto, Canada's Chinese immigrant community. A woman receives a second chance at motherhood when a dumpling, also called a steamed bun or bao, comes to life.
But when the threat of suffering from empty nest syndrome looms (SPOILER ALERT)...
...the mother swallows the anthropomorphic dumpling.
Bao was Pixar's first short directed by a woman, Chinese-Canadian director Domee Shi, and while it resonated with the Asian community through its depiction of Chinese and Asian immigrant culture on the screen, some White audiences were confused or found it ridiculous.
While many Asian film-goers, and those who understood the meaning of Bao, described being moved to tears by Shi's short film, predominantly White audience members described a completely different reaction.
A white woman from Iowa tweeted that Bao was 'the most confusing 10 minutes of my life.' https://t.co/FswG0FCwhX— HuffPost Asian Voices (@HuffPost Asian Voices)1530058744.0
Pixar’s Short Film ‘Bao’ is Confusing The Heck Out of White People. https://t.co/ga4uQknX2Z https://t.co/tTdvxmBV4t— Dixon Tam (@Dixon Tam)1530290885.0
when ppl just dismiss the pixar short “bao” as weird or confusing or not making sense... I cried at the end bc I re… https://t.co/AY7275HYDQ— Izz (@Izz)1529873214.0
For the filmmaker, Domee Shi, the story is about the strained parental relationships that are all too familiar within her culture. She told My Statesman about the genesis for Bao.
My inspiration mainly came from my own life.
Growing up I was that overprotected little dumpling for my Chinese mom. I was an only child living in Toronto with my parents, and they've always kind of watched over me and made sure I was safe — kept me really, really close.
And I just wanted to explore that relationship between an overprotective parent and their child with a dumpling as a metaphor, as weird as that sounds.
But White audiences complained that they did not grasp the child-as-a-dumpling metaphor, when really, the relationship between food and family is a universal theme that should bridge cultural gaps.
SPOILER food brings family together in our culture. so naturally, when we see the mom cook all of her sons favorit… https://t.co/eScV8T6xNk— MOCHI (@MOCHI)1529945180.0
with Bao i dont know why people get so weirded out by the dumpling being a child, like this isnt the first time foo… https://t.co/4sO6Z7Guuz— Taylor @ abolish ICE (@Taylor @ abolish ICE)1530026946.0
Me when I hear people say they thought “Bao” was confusing and stupid vs. me when I realize their cultural insensit… https://t.co/xPyOkSpyIj— Ariana Zhang (@Ariana Zhang)1530021803.0
I watched Incredibles 2 in Napa. During this short, the white folks around me wouldn’t stop laughing and taking abo… https://t.co/KGFsfrZh2i— justin. 🔜 SDCC (@justin. 🔜 SDCC)1529889960.0
Despite some widespread confusion, many viewers embraced Bao and found it to be an emotional experience.
umm. mildly confused to get on here to learn locals found the Pixar short Bao to be confusing and laughable?! how w… https://t.co/nKUs3mnC3v— bekah mcnair 🧙🏻♀️ (@bekah mcnair 🧙🏻♀️)1530035156.0
@izzdos i was slightly terrified at that one point but the end was so heartwarming— gib (@gib)1529874559.0
@izzdos Don’t mind me just wiping my tears in every available surface in the movie theater. 🍿— Lauren Boehm (@Lauren Boehm)1529983585.0
@nancywyuen @ERICxFRANCISCO I absolutely LOVED Bao. As I sat in the theatre with my 14 year old (who kept a seat be… https://t.co/IVCNaybPL0— Tennille N. Allen (@Tennille N. Allen)1530038691.0
The impact Bao had on Asian audiences in particular was significant.
when i watched bao i was like...that’s just me, like exactly. well anyway here’s my wonderful mom and me as a littl… https://t.co/uWbqva3qCr— Louie Zong (@Louie Zong)1529985642.0
⚠️ WARNING ⚠️ If you are an Asian boy and your momma raised you with all the love and attention she could provide… https://t.co/T3WS71Wfdb— Nathaniel Colon (@Nathaniel Colon)1529254437.0
This viewer perfectly summed up her take on the mixed reactions to Bao.
My thoughts on the confusion over Bao: "When you have a film that is so meaningful to a group that’s underrepresent… https://t.co/OIKWVxSae0— Nancy Wang Yuen (@Nancy Wang Yuen)1530038173.0
And this user brought up a good point, saying that the theme of a mother's love is always relevant, regardless of different cultures.
@HPAsianVoices "Isn't about you"... Litterally every mom in the world can relate to this short film. If we, whites,… https://t.co/001106RwEr— Mel😏🍁🇨🇦 5SOS 3RD ALBUM IS #1 IN THE BILLBOARD (@Mel😏🍁🇨🇦 5SOS 3RD ALBUM IS #1 IN THE BILLBOARD)1530122069.0
Bao is another worthy addition to the Pixar-verse that excels in conveying an abundance of emotions within a short time frame. And while maybe it didn't resonate with the majority, Bao is still worthy of a second helping.
With a renewed perspective, perhaps everyone who found the film's message confusing will find their hearts full too.